Fox News' Wallace tapped to moderate first Trump-Biden debate, NBC's Welker gets third

NBC News’ Kristen Welker, Fox News’ Chris Wallace and C-SPAN’s Steve Scully will moderate the three scheduled presidential debates, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Wednesday.

Welker, co-anchor of “Weekend TODAY” and NBC News White House Correspondent, will host the third and final presidential debate Oct. 22, at Belmont University, in Nashville, Tennessee, the commission announced.

Wallace, the anchor of “Fox News Sunday,” will moderate the first presidential debate Sept. 29, at Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland. President Donald Trump has frequently been critical of Wallace, regularly tweeting his dislike of the anchor.

Scully, an editor and producer at C-SPAN who hosts its well-known morning call-in show “Washington Journal,” will moderate the second debate Oct. 15, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, in Miami, the commission said.

Susan Page, the Washington, D.C. bureau chief for USA Today, will moderate the single vice presidential debate on Oct. 7, at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“We are grateful to these experienced journalists, who will help ensure that the general election presidential debates continue to serve their unique educational purpose of helping the public learn about the candidates,” said Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., Dorothy S. Ridings and Kenneth Wollack, the co-chairs of the commission, in a statement.

“Each individual brings great professionalism to moderating and understands that the purpose of the 2020 debate formats is to facilitate in-depth discussion of major topics,” they added.

The Trump campaign groused about the announcement.

“These are not the moderators we would have recommended if the campaign had been allowed to have any input,” campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in a statement. “Some can be identified as clear opponents of President Trump, meaning Joe Biden will actually have a teammate on stage most of the time to help him excuse the radical, leftist agenda he is carrying.”

In a statement, Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said the Democratic nominee “looks forward to participating in the debates set by the commission, regardless of who the independently chosen moderators are,” noting that Biden had said so “for months — without farcical antics.”

The commission previously announced the formats of the four 90-minute debates. The first and third debates will each feature six 15-minute segments on topics selected by the moderator. The second debate will be a town-hall style event, during which questions will come from South Florida-area residents. Participants in the town-hall will be “uncommitted voters” selected by a Gallup pollster.

The sole vice presidential debate will feature nine 10-minute segments, the commission said in June.

All four of the debates will run from 9 p.m. ET to 10:30 p.m. ET, the commission said previously.

The process of scheduling the debates has in recent months seen a spate of unusual developments, mostly due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Two of the debate venues were changed, due to the outbreak: the University of Notre Dame in Indiana withdrew in July from hosting the first debate, and the University of Michigan, in June, opted out of hosting the second debate.

Both schools expressed public health concerns about hosting such a prominent event in the middle of a pandemic.

In addition, President Donald Trump’s campaign had requested that the commission move the debates earlier to account for mail-in voting.

The commission denied the request.

In a letter to the commission, Rudy Giuliani, a personal attorney for Trump, also included a list of journalists and commentators that Trump would like to moderate the debates. That list did not include Wallace, Scully, Welker or Page.

In its August response to Giuliani, CPD officials said the group “will adhere to our longstanding procedure of selecting the debate moderators” and “will do so with great care, as always, to ensure that the selected moderators are qualified and fair.”